Out of Touch
1The Lord said to Moses, “Yet one plague more I will bring upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt. Afterward he will let you go from here. When he lets you go, he will drive you away completely. 2Speak now in the hearing of the people, that they ask, every man of his neighbor and every woman of her neighbor, for silver and gold jewelry.” 3And the Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. Moreover, the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants and in the sight of the people. 4So Moses said, “Thus says the Lord: ‘About midnight I will go out in the midst of Egypt, 5and every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the cattle. 6There shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there has never been, nor ever will be again. 7But not a dog shall growl against any of the people of Israel, either man or beast, that you may know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.’ 8And all these your servants shall come down to me and bow down to me, saying, ‘Get out, you and all the people who follow you.’ And after that I will go out.” And he went out from Pharaoh in hot anger. 9Then the Lord said to Moses, “Pharaoh will not listen to you, that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.” 10Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh, and the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go out of his land.
This brief chapter of Exodus brings the next phase of the story into focus. God has prophesied earlier exactly what would happen as the plagues unfolded and Pharaoh’s heart grows hard. Now, in preparation for the final plague of the death of the firstborn sons, the text summarizes what has been said and what has been promised.
19But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. 20So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go. 21And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and when you go, you shall not go empty, 22but each woman shall ask of her neighbor, and any woman who lives in her house, for silver and gold jewelry, and for clothing. You shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians.”
3But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, 4Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. 5The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.”
What we find in this passage is an almost total disconnect between Pharaoh and his people. His subjects seem to be the very last concern in his mind. He is far more worried about maintaining his pride and winning in the battle against the God of the universe; this is exactly what God had told Moses would happen. Pharaoh’s behavior is the perfect example of what it looks like when you try to spit in God’s eye. It’s a bad idea – every time. We also get to see just a glimpse into Moses’ mind as he is described as being in “hot anger” when he finally leaves the Pharaoh’s presence.